The sixth in an alphabetical series of blog posts: A-Z: An alphabetical journal through the doctoral experience.
I've recently put together something I've called 'a fulfilment strategy'. It's an action plan for networking, publication and gaining relevant experience during the final year of my doctoral research, in order to make myself as employable as possible. Although I call it a 'fulfilment strategy' with my tongue firmly in my cheek, on reflection, it's not such a bad name.
Ever since I started my doctoral research people have asked me 'What are you going to do with your PhD?' Implying anything from 'How do you plan to make your way in academia?' to 'What the heck use is that?!'. Because I'd had a torrid few years on the employment front prior to starting my PhD, I'd decided to give myself a whole two year sabbatical from thinking about paid employment. Up until last month, I just shrugged my shoulders and said, truthfully: 'I really don't know at this point'. What a gift, at my (middle) age, not to have to think too far into the future.
Having very recently embarked on my final year however, not only am I getting the 'So, what are you going to do with your PhD?' question with increasing regularity, but now it's something I'm asking myself too! How am I going to capitalise on my increased capacity for critical thinking and writing, my enthusiasm for research in my field, the niche I'm in the process of carving out for myself? How am I going to justify the significant personal, professional and financial investment I and others have made in these three years? With the HE sector increasinly febrile and conflicted, with secure posts increasingly scarce and every decent job fiercely fought over, there is no certainty whatsoever that a woman who's just hit 50 is going to acquire any post that fits her skills, talents, expertise and potential, let alone her interests and ambitions!
But as a friend observed recently: 'these are your halcyon days!' She was right. She could see that I am already fulfilled - strategy or no strategy. I suspect the question 'what are you going to do with your PhD?' is not the right question. I'm doing doctoral research. I love what I do and I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to do it, whatever it leads to. Perhaps, the question should be 'what is your PhD going to do with you?'